Innovative Seabin that collects waste in harbours is first of its kind in the UK
An innovative device for collecting ocean waste, the first of its kind in the UK and so far the world’s only commercial unit, has been installed in Portsmouth’s Camber Dock on the Land Rover BAR (Ben Ainslie Racing) pontoon, the headquarters for the British America’s Cup sailing team.
Installed in October, the Seabin is the creation of Australian surfers Pete Ceglinski and Andrew Turton, who founded the Seabin Project in 2016 to combat the problem of plastic pollution in marinas, ports and other calm water bodies.
The Seabin, designed to be placed in an identified ‘debris problem area’, takes in water from the surface with the tides and collects any floating debris inside a ‘catch bag’, before pumping the cleared water back into the marina. Amy Munro, Sustainability Officer at Land Rover BAR, told Resource the bin is currently collecting on average 0.5 kilogrammes of litter every day during the working week, and Seabin Project has predicted that the bin could collect around half a tonne of debris per year, equivalent to 83,000 plastic bags or 20,000 plastic bottles.
The bin can further be used to remove pollutants such as oils and detergents that float on the surface of the water. Notably, it can also catch microplastics as small as 2 millimetres, some of the most subtly devastating causes of plastic pollution. A recent study found evidence of microplastics in the stomachs of creatures living in the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the world’s oceans, at a known depth of 10,994 metres.
Having captured the litter, it is separated into recyclable and non-recyclable waste. Munro said: "Recyclable materials such as some plastics, metal, card products if they are not too heavily contaminated are separated from general waste which goes to the Veolia waste to energy plant. Seaweed goes back into the sea unless it is really heavily contaminated with polystyrene balls which does happen a lot!"
She added: "We are initiating a project with local artists to collect plastics from the Seabin and use them to make ocean health awareness artwork."
Ceglinski and Turton are looking to develop a new ‘catch bag’ made from recycled plastic, and the ultimate goal is to build Seabins out of the very plastic they collect, creating a circular project similar to that of environmental charity Hubbub’s ‘Poly-Mer’ boat, another innovative effort to collect water-borne waste before it reaches the ocean. Launched in November, the ‘Poly-Mer’ is built from recycled plastic and takes businesses and school children on ‘plastic fishing’ trips to scoop debris out of the Thames.
One Seabin currently costs an initial €3,300 (£2,901), and following that around 75 pence per day to run. The project notes that a medium-sized marina would require around five to seven Seabins to collect all of its litter, meaning Portsmouth’s first is merely one step in the right direction.
Of course, as Ceglinski and Land Rover BAR have acknowledged, the best way to prevent plastic entering the oceans is through education to reduce littering, something central to Seabin’s philosophy. “The real solution to ocean plastics and littering is not technology, but education, science, research,” Ceglinski said. “The innovative Seabin project is also a tool to inspire and engage the next generation, with the ultimate goal to live in the world with the need for Seabins.”
Munro agreed: "We hope that it will raise awareness about the items that end up polluting our waters - and crucially how to stop them getting there in the first place. We hope that it will inspire team members but also our visiting school groups". Land Rover BAR’s educational charity, the 1851 Trust, offers lessons on ocean health for local primary school students, using the Seabin to engage children around the importance of recycling.
The Seabin is just one of the innovative and eco-friendly elements of Land Rover BAR’s UK headquarters in Portsmouth, which runs entirely on renewable energy and aims to send no waste to landfill. Alongside the bin, the pontoon also hosts 1,000 oysters in protected cages, part of the Solent Oyster Restoration Project designed to restore the native oyster population.
Similarly innovative plastic-capturing technology to the Seabin is being utilised on a larger scale by the Ocean Cleanup project, which will begin extracting plastic waste from the surface of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 2018.
Evidence from Eunomia Research and Consulting placed the efficacy of such projects under scrutiny, however claiming that around 94 per cent of marine plastics are found deep down on the seafloor, rather than floating at the surface; however, the same study showed that over 80 per cent of all ocean plastic enters the marine environment from the land, meaning projects like the Seabin have an important role in diverting waste at the shore and preventing it from reaching those hard to reach deep ocean spots where it causes the most damage.